After seven rescues early in season, agencies issue hiking safety messages
Mayor Tom Dolan addresses hiker safety during a special press conference. (Nicole Martin/Sandy City)
After a record-high seven hiking rescues this spring, first responders feel compelled to issue safety reminders in advance of the summer hiking season.
“We are seeing a dramatic increase in rescues, particularly so early in the season,” said Bruce Cline, Sandy City fire chief. “Almost without exception, accidents and fatalities can be avoided with preparation and caution.”
According to Nicole Martin, the deputy mayor of Sandy City, while safety messages often seem common sense, many people are simply not following them, making the reminder all the more important to possibly save lives. With three reported swift-water drownings, extra caution should be used during this high water runoff season, particularly with children and pets. Rescues this season were due to inexperienced hikers, hiking without adequate water and supplies, and challenging terrain.
Additional safety messages include don’t hike alone, tell someone where you are going and when you will return, stay on marked trails, don’t climb on waterfalls, don’t take risks and don’t count on cellphones to work in the wilderness.
As Bells Canyon Trails is one of the area’s most popular but also most dangerous hikes, public responders gathered at the Granite Head Trailhead for a press conference on May 26.
In the past month alone, seven people have been rescued from the area between Bells Canyon and Rocky Mouth Waterfall. Over the last five years, two deaths and countless injuries, from minor sprains and strains to serious life-threatening injuries, have occurred.
Sandy City Mayor Tom Dolan also brought up the importance of safety at Bells Canyon — which he called one of the area’s true natural treasures — at last month’s press conference.
“It is loved by many throughout the state, but consistently every season, we have hikers who disregard warnings, overestimate their abilities and get into trouble,” he said. “There is an 80-foot waterfall at Bells Canyon, making a jump across the stream a potentially fatal decision. Public safety is our top priority and we want to encourage all to get outdoors, but also want to strongly reiterate at the start of the summer season to not take unnecessary risks. Our primary message today is that our world-class recreation is meant to be enjoyed, but with that said, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Dolan said he hoped local hikers would try to stay safe and prepared, as well as aware of risks at all times while on the trails.
“Sandy City is a ‘mountain meets urban community,’ where citizens can readily access wilderness within minutes,” he said. “Sixty-two percent of our residents use our parks or trails on a weekly basis, and with the warm weather now, we know many will be headed to the mountains. But with the convenience comes a caution. Regardless of how close we are to home, there are inherent risks in being in nature.”
Martin also stressed the importance of hiker safety after the conference.
“Since the press conference, we had two rescues in that same afternoon, and what may very well turn out to be a fatality this weekend,” she said. “They are still searching for a man who fell into the water and has not been found. I believe the subject matter is even more important now than it was when we did the press conference.”